September 24, 2018
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NGO urges international community to punish Myanmar for persecuting Muslims

Bangkok, Jun 26 (efe-epa).- The non-profit Burma Human Rights Network on Tuesday asked the international community to exert pressure on Myanmar with punishment to stop it persecuting Muslims and denying them citizenship.

BHRN Executive Director Kyaw Win made the appeal during a presentation in Bangkok of the report "Existence Denied" on the vulnerable state of Myanmar Muslims in their country and in Thailand, where many of them live illegally.

Kyaw Win said Myanmar authorities often denied citizenship to Muslims, including those belonging to the Rohingya minority, in a campaign of discrimination against non-Buddhist and non-Bamar minorities.

"This is the strategy of the government and it is affecting the neighbouring countries, producing refugees," Kyaw Win said at the Foreign Correspondents' Club of Thailand.

"There must be a kind of punishment for making, creating stateless people, IDPs (internally displaced persons) and refugees," he added.

Kyaw Win said thousands of Myanmar Muslims were at risk of being detained or deported from Thailand when the deadline for immigrants to prove their citizenship with documents from their countries expires on Jun. 30.

The activist said the Rohingyas were the most persecuted Muslim minority but that there are many other Muslims also discriminated against in other parts of Myanmar, including in the states of Karen, Mon and Shan.

Through 36 interviews, the report reveals the difficulties Muslims residing in Thailand face in obtaining identity documents in Myanmar, which often leaves them stateless and in a vulnerable situation.

This has a negative impact on children, who sometimes have to spend hours alone at home while their parents are temporarily detained by Thailand's immigration police.

The report also touches upon discrimination faced by other minorities such as the Gurkhas, former Nepalese fighters who settled in Myanmar after World War II and who also face problems in being recognized as citizens.

BHRN urged Myanmar authorities to write a new constitution to reduce the power of the army and separate the right to citizenship from religion or ethnicity.

However, the non-profit believed there would be no change in Myanmar until the international community did not step up pressure on the government and the military.

Myanmar, which was under military rule between 1962 and 2011, elected its first democratic government, led by Aung San Suu Kyi's National League for Democracy party on Nov. 8, 2015.

However, the government has disappointed several former supporters of the Nobel Peace Prize laureate for failing to defend Muslims, especially of the Rohingya community.

The Myanmar army has been accused of ethnic cleansing following operations that led to the exodus of more than 700,000 Rohingyas to Bangladesh since August last year.

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